It's been a while since I wrote some personal considerations of mine due to some private business I had to attend to. One topic, however, forced me to make some time. I wanted to write about the pushing away of the Christian tradition from every day life in Europe, especially in the European Union.
I was inspired by a short essay from an American conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel titled "Why I'm Glad Most Americans Think Founders Intended Christian Nation
". Schlussel in it, among other things, criticizes "the European athiest ethos" and says that Europe is dominated by "a spritual vacuum which is fast being replaced by an extremist belief in Allah ".
What Schlussel neglected to mention is that this spiritual vacuum is a relatively recent phenomenon. What caused it? Contempt for Christianity was first found in the works of Voltaire and Rousseau. Their theories were made into brutal reality by the French revolutionaries, especially Jacobins. After Napoleon took over, the church was again allowed to operate normally, but the emperor would never let them meddle in state affairs. In spite of this, christianity had it's influence in the society, especially on public morality. The population still firmly held on to their belief in God and behaved according to Christian morality and 10 Commandments. In the Balkans, which was still under Ottoman Turkish rule in the 19th century Cristianity had a national-liberating role as well.
Atheism, gnosticism and moral relativism was mostly on the margins of society, limited to philosophical and utopian socialist theories. Only with the emergence of marxism did the atheist ethos get it's ideological frame and historical explanation. Marx considered religion as a means of exploitation of the working class and thought that absolute reason must direct human behaviour. In the new communist society, according to Marx, there will be no place for religion and religious morality as well as nations and nation-states. Marxism, however, could not offer any moral values to replace the existing ones, and that which they offered was so contrary to human nature it could have been imposed only by brute force.
Marxism, or at least it's atheist, anti-christian and antinational component, did not have a large influence on socialist movements in the 19th and the beggining of the 20th century. Opportunity, however, presented itself during the First world war.
The influence of this war is to this day underestimated, and when one speaks of it's legacy, only political and geopolitical changes are taken into account. Very few authors dealt with the spiritual state of the nations that participated. Before that, fighting in a war was not only considered a question of honour but was depicted as some sort of a romantic adventure. That attitude largely explains the photos from 1914. where masses all over Europe greeted the beggining of the war. Besides, up to that point war was usually reserved for the top class, which provided the command cadre and for the poorest which was "cannon fodder". The middle burgois class(merchants, civil servants, bankers) were mostly spared the effort. WWI changed that. Mass armies formed out of conscripts made sure all social strata felt the consequences of the conflict. And many were deeply shocked by what they have seen. Mass butcherings at Verdun and the Somme, headless charges across no-man's land, conditions in the trenches, and evident lack of any kind of strategic vision by the commanders...Horrors never before seen in history. All that made many a participant sceptical not only of the earthly order but also in the spiritual values they previously considered sacrosant. "If God is good and just, why does he allow such evil?" For the first time such question could be heard in all segments of the population. The stage was set for marxists to take power.
The bolsheviks seized the opportunity and took power in Russia. In other countries hit hardest by the war, mostly in the defeated Central powers, their ideological brethrewn were not as successful. At that moment the victorious powers were wise enough not to istigate or aid marxist coups in Germany and Hungary. Later, triuphalist euphoria eclipsed such wisdom which was to the advantage of some other, up to that moment, obscure forces.
As a consequence of defeat in the Great war, relatively new ideologies based on racial theories and social-darwinism gained strength in Germany. Just like marxism, they existed before the war but did not have large support in the population or in the ruling class. Defeat and the peace of Versaille that followed made fertile ground for various chauvinist organizations which saw the break with traditional morality as a condition for recovery. Soon they were more or less united in the national-socialist party under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. They rejected the marxist theory of class struggle and the international brothehood of workers and took the doctrine of the "survival of the fittest". While marxists removed morality between individuals, national-socialists erased moral norms between nations. Might is right was their supreme law. Soon marxists and national-socialists began fighting over who will fill the vacuum in the sprits of Germans, a vacuum ever more profound with each economic crisis. The conflict ended when Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. Hitler made anti-marxism a pillar of German domestic and foreign policy, and placed the destruction of the USSR notl only as his highest personal goal but also as a necessity for the survival of the German people.
Countries that emerged victorious from WWI were hit by a moral erosion of another kind. The high price of victory lead to an unhealthy pacification of the public and the ruling elite. This is especially valid for France which was in 1918. served an opportunity to completely dominate continental Europe for the first time since Napoleon but had neither the force or the will to take it since the war practically wiped out a whole genration of it's best men. Publications which demanded the preservaqtion of peace in Europe at any cost dominated France between the two world wars. Situation in Britain was similar albeit to a lesser extent. This largely explains the appeasing attitude of these countries towards Hitler before the war as well as the collapse of France in 1940.
World War 2 brought an even greater material catastrophe and set the foundations of the definite spiritual destruction of Europe.
(to be continued)